Friend of Accused Boston Bomber Found Guilty of Lying to Authorities

Robel Phillipos
Robel Phillipos, a friend of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found guilty of lying to authorities. Brian Snyder/Reuters

BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. jury on Tuesday found a college friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber guilty of lying to authorities in a terrorism investigation.

Robel Phillipos, 21, was charged with lying about having visited suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.

Phillipos and two friends removed a backpack containing empty fireworks shells from the suspected bomber's room.

Phillipos, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was on trial in Boston for two criminal counts of lying to investigators, one for saying he did not remember the visit and one for denying it. He later signed a written confession admitting to it, following an FBI interrogation.

He faces up to 16 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 29. Until then, Phillipos remains under house arrest.

Phillipos' attorneys had contended that their client was too intoxicated on marijuana the day of the visit to have a clear memory of his actions on April 18, 2013, and thus could not have lied.

Over seven days of testimony, a series of FBI agents testified that Phillipos gave conflicting statements about the visit to Tsarnaev's room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth before signing a statement that he did go.

Of the two friends who accompanied him, both Kazakh exchange students, Azamat Tazhayakov was convicted in July and Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty in August of removing a backpack from the room during a massive manhunt for the bomber.

Defense witnesses included Phillipos' college and high school friends, who testified to his marijuana use and former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, a family friend, who described Phillipos as having been confused during his FBI interviews.

Tsarnaev, 21, is awaiting trial on charges that carry the death penalty. His brother, who prosecutors said helped carry out the bombing, died after a shootout with police late on the night of April 18, 2013.